Watch Iconic Characters | Bob Odenkirk Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ Video | CNE | Gq.com

Watch Iconic Characters | Bob Odenkirk Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ Video | CNE | Gq.com

For a while there, it seemed like everyone wanted me

to play an agent, a network executive, a lawyer.

I’m not a duplicitous person.

I’m not running a con on anyone,

but for some reason, people felt I was able

to inhabit those roles well,

which is a perfectly fine with me.

It’s all pretend.

[upbeat music]

I just got a phone call from my agent and he said,

There’s a show called ‘Breaking Bad’.

They’re gonna invite you to do a part.

You’ve got to say yes to this one.

This is the kind of part people win Emmys for.

Well, I haven’t won an Emmy yet, but I’ve come close,

so my agent was pretty on the nose there.

He knew what he was talking about.

Anyway, I had never seen Breaking Bad.

It was in its second season

and it was not doing well in the ratings,

didn’t really do well until the third and fourth seasons.

I called a friend as soon as my agent hung up,

and I said, Have you ever heard of

this show ‘Breaking Bad’?

And he said, It’s the best show on TV.

You have to say yes to that.

Whatever they ask you to do, say yes.

So Vince calls and he goes,

It’s a character, his name’s Saul Goodman,

he’s a lawyer, he’s a sleazy lawyer,

you see these guys on the back of buses.

They have the little advertisement on the back of the bus.

I said, I know we barely know each other,

I’ve not read anything, but I have an idea for his hair.

I said, Can he have a comb-over and a mullet,

and then clean on the sides?

And Vince goes, Yeah, I think that’d work.

That sounds pretty good.

What you two need is an honest to God, businessman, right?

Somebody who treats your product

like the simple, high-margin commodity that it is.

Somebody who ships out of town, deals only in bulk.

Someone who’s been doing this

for 20 years and never been caught.

The look of Saul is a big part of how I play him

and where I draw the energy from.

I’ve always gotten a lot from hair

and facial hair and costume,

as far as informing and telling me

who this person is and how they walk

and sit and stand and talk.

You know, the part was written by Peter Gould,

who then carried on to create

Better Call Saul with Vince Gilligan,

and who now runs that show for the last few years.

Those guys just were really having fun,

and in fact, they gave me the part,

not because of Larry Sanders, which is what I thought,

they gave me the part because of Mr. Show.

So give them tons of credit for foresight.

[upbeat music]

It’s the biggest, best role

I’ll probably ever have in my life.

They don’t, there’s almost no role you can point to

that has as much humor, comedy, pure comedy in a scene,

and then two scenes later, drama,

directness, simplicity and earnestness,

all those things right near each other,

and all of them tied together and grounded.

I’d never done anything to deserve the range of that role.

There’s great actors and people training

at Juilliard right now who will never

get a role that good in their lives.

So I treasure it and I want to make the most of it,

and I don’t know how it ends.

I kinda hope that the character of Jimmy McGill

finds some way to be at peace with the world

and feel valued and loved,

but I have a feeling that’s not what’s gonna happen.

You know what, I think tomorrow I might call that shrink.

Couldn’t hurt, right?

It couldn’t hurt.

We didn’t have to torture ourselves to invent Jimmy

because Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad,

you only ever see him at work.

So, because of that, there’s nothing established

about his personal life,

and there was nothing that

had to be understood or explained.

He’s very much a facade.

That gave Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould

and all the other writers

a great degree of freedom to invent Jimmy McGill,

and we all agreed that the first thing they needed to do

was make him likable, someone that you would root for.

Because, as fun as Saul Goodman was in Breaking Bad,

he was only fun and funny in relation

to a group of people who all had guns to their heads

and were torturing each other.

And the two of you agreed that,

since, as everybody knows,

you’re going back to work any day now,

that the firm should help you make ends meet.

That’s correct, minus the sarcasm.

Hamlin’s making you a chump.

I’m going to get better.

They really did a beautiful thing

in inventing Jimmy McGill

and giving him that backstory,

and his brother, who he’s caring for,

played by Michael McKean

and Rhea Seehorn, playing Kim Wexler, someone he loves.

They really built someone that you could like.

[upbeat music]

Mr. Show was my dream come true.

I met Robert Smigel, and through Robert

and working with him, I got hired at Saturday Night Live

and worked there for a couple of years,

and I went to L.A. and I was doing my own thing

and I got hired at The Ben Stiller Show,

which was a wonderful place to work and we had so much fun,

but it was very short-lived.

And then I met David Cross for the second

or third or fifth time.

I didn’t really talk to him

the first couple of times I met him,

and I realized we were on the same wavelength, comedically,

and we started writing together and we clicked immediately.

We did sketches here in town and started pitching a show

that would be like Monty Python in that,

one sketch would sort of transform into the next sketch,

and we would be political,

but not on the nose, not topical,

but we would be socially political and aware,

and very, very silly, and hopefully a little bit smart,

and hopefully very, very funny.

I wrote it down in case you wanted it.

Why would I want that old thing when I can have this?

[imitates musical instruments] [marching band playing]

And that was Mr. Show,

and HBO picked it up and we did it for four years.

We did 33 episodes.

They’re jam-packed with jokes and laughs

and funny characters and ideas.

Just, it’s my brain on screen.

So if you want to know what it’s like

inside this madhouse, you go watch Mr. Show.

Don’t worry, Mother, the wind blew…

[glass shatters]

You did it twice.

Three time, you weren’t here.

[upbeat music]

I thought, I have this kind of intensity inside me

that I’ve occasionally showed,

and occasionally for comedy’s sake in Mr. Show.

People loved when I would scream goddammit.

Goddammit.

Goddammit.

Greg, goddammit, get out here.

And we often used it for laughs.

I asked around to the powers that be in Hollywood

and people kind of liked the idea.

They thought there was something to it.

A kind of more of an everyman action hero.

Somebody who looks really not

like he’s going to kick your ass.

[bat thudding] [gun firing]

I’m playing this character, Hutch Mansell,

who is a father, a dad, and has a real nothing job.

He’s hidden away, he’s purposefully hidden himself away.

Some incidents happen that bring out

the beast inside him and I get to rage

full-on in action hero mode,

do some amazing screen fighting,

which I trained for two years for,

and I’m very proud to say I did

all my own fighting and I loved it.

[men grunting] [punches thudding]

[bottle shattering]

My favorite thing to shoot in Nobody was the bus fight.

It was an opportunity for me to show

what I’d learned training for two years.

I got out a lot of rage, I got to laugh a lot.

It was very inventive physical fighting,

there was all these people involved,

and we had to work together to shoot it,

it was a group effort.

Greg Rementer was the director on that sequence.

Ilya Naishuller, who directed the movie,

and my good friend, Daniel Bernhardt,

who trained me for two damn years

of patience and fortitude, was in it as well.

And so I got to make that fight sequence with my friends

and make a fight sequence that I’m really proud of.

[upbeat music]

Larry called me and asked me to play an ex-porn star.

He told me, There’s gonna be a dinner party at your house,

and you’re gonna tell a really

crude story from your porn days,

and you need to write two porn stories

that are really inappropriate.

You guys looking around?

[Larry] It’s a great house.

Great place.

My wife jokingly refers to it

as the house that [bleep] built.

Because of my porn, I did porn.

I never made enough money to buy-

I told her.

He wrote the line when I welcome him to my house.

That’s Larry David.

So much fun to improvise comedy that way,

in a kind of a subtle

and, you know, realistic kind of vibe.

A great experience to do Curb Your Enthusiasm,

and I’ve always wanted to do more like it,

and there aren’t many shows that shoot that way,

but it’s usually a small personal idiosyncrasy

that you’re told to lead the way,

and then you just, everything else is a riff.

[upbeat music]

I was a writer and performer on The Ben Stiller Show,

which was a sketch show on Fox TV

that ran for 12 beautiful episodes.

Gary was a guest on our show.

We all had a good time talking to him,

but then he had his show

and he needed someone to play his agent.

He clearly wanted a young person,

and Gary did this very nice thing of calling me aside

and talking to me about the role, and I got it.

Oh, I signed Barry Levinson last week.

Just came by to hold his hand.

Say, listen, if you guys need any help

booking guests just pick up the phone.

It was a fast-talking agent, not unlike Saul Goodman,

certainly the one we met in Breaking Bad,

but this was years before that,

and it was based on my agent at the time, Ari Emanuel,

a very famous agent who later was also built

into a character on Entourage, played by Jeremy Piven.

I think Jeremy probably nailed him

a little better than I did,

but I just was using this kind of energy

that I got from my friend, Ari Emanuel.

Ari’s a very energetic guy,

to the point where he is almost

so carried away with his ideas that he’ll phone you,

and then he won’t listen to you

because he’s already moved on.

It’s kind of rude, but I never minded it, I just liked him.

I liked his energy.

For a while there, it seemed like everyone

wanted me to play an agent, a network executive, a lawyer.

I’m not a duplicitous person.

I’m not running a con on anyone,

but for some reason, people felt I was able

to inhabit those roles well,

which is a perfectly fine with me.

It’s all pretend

So, Larry, are we, uh-

[Larry] On?

Yeah.

Yeah.

Boom, you’re number one.

Yeah, I loved working with Gary Shandling.

He was the mastermind of that show.

It was a unique show.

I’d never seen comedy that was as dry

and subtle as what Gary pulled off

on The Larry Sanders Show.

I loved him.

[upbeat music]

I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Working with Bruce Dern was a treasured memory for me.

Maybe we’ll get to work together again.

He’s so great.

And of course I love Will Forte ’cause he’s a sweetheart.

At one point I had to read a news report.

It was just dry, factual nothingness,

and I literally couldn’t make it through

this stupid, simple thing.

So I said to Alexander, I said,

Can I just do a comedy version of this, just one time?

Just roll the cameras and I’m just gonna

make fun of every one of these stories.

And he said, Sure.

I went through and, every story,

I just made fun of, I made a joke about,

and I got that out of me,

and then I was able to be a real actor.

A council is expected to debate

the proposal in Monday’s session.

Coming up next in sports, Carter brings us

the story of a hardened snowmobiler

who may have lost his legs,

but not his will to compete.

[upbeat music]

I was just offered that role on Seinfeld.

And it was a great experience.

You know, Seinfeld worked like a laugh machine,

and not in a bad way, not in a cold

and unfeeling and mechanical way,

but in a reliable and professional way.

So I went in, acted it,

didn’t have to exaggerate the person,

just played him earnestly.

It was a great, great experience.

You know, I’m not really a doctor.

Oh, then I’m not really attracted to you.

[audience laughing]

Well, I’m serious, Elaine, I went to medical school,

but I still have to pass my licensing exam.

They were such a team, on the same page,

working together so well,

that you just try to catch up

and just say your lines at the right time

and everything would be okay.

I did not watch Seinfeld until after it was a long over.

My girlfriend at the time was a huge fan,

so I certainly knew that it was great,

but the last time I’d really seen Larry David

was at the Improv in New York

when I was a writer for Saturday Night Live

and he was totally out of work.

I’m not sure if he was penniless,

but just, it’s fun to imagine a penniless Larry David.

He complained even more than he does

now that he’s a billionaire.

Now that I’ve watched every single episode,

it is in my top three sitcoms of all time.

.

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